Ronny Deila's tenure at New York City FC has not started the way that he hoped.
His first year at the club began with with success in the Concacaf Champions League, as the Cityzens defeated Costa Rican side San Carlos on their way to the quarterfinals. But a 1-0 first-leg loss at home against Tigres in the quarters was sandwiched around two other losses to start the MLS regular season.
Fast forward four months to the MLS is Back Tournament. Although they entered the competition as one of the favorites, Deila's team have lost their first two matches — the latest being a 3-1 loss to Orlando City SC.
"Of course it's not a good atmosphere right now," Deila said after the match. "We hate losing and today we're not happy with the way we started the game. We keep ourselves in a very bad situation because when you haven't been winning games for a while you get stressed and you lose your confidence."
NYCFC started the match in a 5-3-2 formation with James Sands, Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens playing as the three center backs. It was the first time Deila turned to the formation to start a match this year and it did not prove to be defensively beneficial as Orlando's Chris Mueller scored two goals within the first 10 minutes.
The head coach changed formations after the first-half hydration break, moving Sands into the midfield and Jesus Medina's golazo came shortly after. It was the club's first MLS goal of the season.
"The first half hour was not good enough and I have to take responsibility for it because it seems like we were not clear enough with how we wanted to play and we didn't show what we wanted to do in the first 30 minutes."
While NYCFC cannot finish in one of the top two positions in Group A, it is still possible for the team to be one of the four 3rd-placed teams that advances. In the same format at last year's FIFA Women's World Cup, two teams that finished with three points moved on to the Knockout Round. Of course, a win against Inter Miami CF on Monday (9 am ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada) is necessary.
"We're not a club that's used to losing games, especially consecutive games," said NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. "It's a rough moment, but it's moments like these that we have to look within and figure out what it's going to take to turn it around. We have another game left in the tournament and I can tell you we are going to put everything into it."
Even if the Cityzens are unable to move on in the tournament, starting the season with no wins in five games would have them playing catch-up in terms of making the playoffs once the regular season resumes in home markets.
"We're not used to losing at this club. It's unacceptable to lose games. We know that as players and we shoulder that responsibility when we step on the pitch. We have to do a better job to start the game on the front foot and we have to start putting results together plain and simple."